Biomimetic nanobots clear bacteria and toxins from blood.
With the rapid advancement of robotic research, it has become increasingly interesting and important to develop biomimetic micro- or nanorobots that translate biological principles into robotic systems. Now, a study from researchers at the University of California San Diego develops tiny ultrasound-powered robots which can swim through blood, removing harmful bacteria and the toxins they produce. The team state that these proof-of-concept nanorobots could one day offer a safe and efficient way to decontaminate biological fluids. The study is published in the journal Science Robotics.
Previous studies show that researchers have long dreamed of developing tiny robots that could roam about inside humans, delivering drugs with unprecedented precision, and hunting down and destroying offending organisms. The current study designs, constructs, and evaluates a nanorobot for multipurpose removal of biological threat agents.
The current study develops nanorobots by coating gold nanowires with a hybrid of platelet and red blood cell membranes. This hybrid cell membrane coating allows the nanorobots to perform the tasks of two different cells at once–platelets, which bind pathogens like MRSA bacteria, and red blood cells, which absorb and neutralize the toxins produced by these bacteria. Results show that gold body of the nanorobots responds to ultrasound, which gives them the ability to swim around rapidly without chemical fuel. Data findings show that this mobility helps the nanorobots efficiently mix with bacteria and toxins in the blood and speed up detoxification.
Results show that the nanorobots are about 25 times smaller than the width of a human hair, and that they can travel up to 35 micrometers per second in blood when powered by ultrasound. In tests, researchers used the nanorobots to treat blood samples contaminated with MRSA and their toxins; data finding show that after five minutes, these blood samples had three times less bacteria and toxins than untreated samples. The lab state that by integrating natural cell coatings onto synthetic nanomachines, they can impart new capabilities on tiny robots such as removal of pathogens and toxins from the body and from other matrices.
The team surmise they have developed ultrasound-propelled biomimetic nanorobots capable of isolating and removing different biological threats, an important step toward the creation of a broad-spectrum detoxification robotic platforms. For the future, the researchers state that the ultimate goal is to use the nanorobots for detoxifying biological fluids in live animals.